Ritual Laws in Judaism

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Valke2

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I often see a lot of criticism or at least downplaying of the ritual laws in Judaism, almost all of which are somehow related to actions that were originally to be done in or assocaited with the Tent of Meeting/Temple. So I was pleasantly surprised to run across Richard Friedman’s commentary on ritual law today.

Jews as well as christians often tend to discard these as outdated and of little value. We obviously today value ethical over ritual in religion. This is why I often see Jews defending ritual law by trying to prove that there is some ethical aspect to them (I’ve done this myself). For example, saying that we keep kosher to remind us to care for animals.

While it is true that ritual can have ethical components, it is also true that this is not the primary purpose of ritual law. In biblical times (i.e., during the time Leviticus was written), ritual served many purposes. It could generate a sense of closeness to the divine, enforce feelings of security, identity with a group. It also provides a sense of certainity, by letting us know what is the right thing to do. It can increase the celebration of a festival by having set actions taken by the entire community.

The ritual and the ethical laws or traditions are equally important aspects of religion – both in Judaism and in Christianity. But they do not necessarily justify each other. Instead they produce mutual support. One doesn’t need to interpet ritual laws in terms of ethical justifications. To do so puts distance between us and Awe before the holy.
 
I often see a lot of criticism or at least downplaying of the ritual laws in Judaism, almost all of which are somehow related to actions that were originally to be done in or assocaited with the Tent of Meeting/Temple. So I was pleasantly surprised to run across Richard Friedman’s commentary on ritual law today.

Jews as well as christians often tend to discard these as outdated and of little value. We obviously today value ethical over ritual in religion. This is why I often see Jews defending ritual law by trying to prove that there is some ethical aspect to them (I’ve done this myself). For example, saying that we keep kosher to remind us to care for animals.

While it is true that ritual can have ethical components, it is also true that this is not the primary purpose of ritual law. In biblical times (i.e., during the time Leviticus was written), ritual served many purposes. It could generate a sense of closeness to the divine, enforce feelings of security, identity with a group. It also provides a sense of certainity, by letting us know what is the right thing to do. It can increase the celebration of a festival by having set actions taken by the entire community.

The ritual and the ethical laws or traditions are equally important aspects of religion – both in Judaism and in Christianity. But they do not necessarily justify each other. Instead they produce mutual support. One doesn’t need to interpet ritual laws in terms of ethical justifications. To do so puts distance between us and Awe before the holy.
Well, said… thanks for posting this…

shalom
 
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